STATE OF BUSINESS: Still on the Climb

The U.S. economy last week showed a seasonal briskness that put new pep into the statistics. Private housing starts hit the highest level of any month since September 1955 with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,260,000. The nation's industrial output edged up another point to 138% of the 1947-49 average, 9% above the recession low. With unemployment still dropping between September and October, consumers stepped up their buying in the nation's department stores by 2% over a year ago. And steel production, reported the American Iron and Steel Institute, rose to the highest level in a year, with...

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